Hidden Oaks Golf Course, a leisurely nine-hole, par 27 course designed by 51-time PGA Tour winner Billy Casper and owned by PGA pro Dave De Heras, bursts with foliage and boasts magnificent views of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Amateurs and pros alike can chip and putt their way across the scenic 107 yards of the second hole, and use mind control to wrangle rogue golf balls roaming the grassy 152-yard ninth hole. Throughout, club-swinging duos are accompanied by the sultry breezes of the Pacific Ocean, swaying trees, and hungry sand traps scheming to swallow any golf balls or circus-grade swords that should fall into their grips.
Twin Lakes Golf Course is much more than the sum of its parts. With a 9-hole, par 28 executive golf course and practice facilities that include a driving range, 8,500-square-foot putting green, and chipping area, it gives players countless ways to better their game. Visiting players can hone short, half-swing approaches and full, walloping drives on holes ranging from as close as 70 yards to as far as 360, much as they would on a full-length course. The driving range also expedites the learning curve with full-flight Pinnacle range balls primed and ready to be pummeled from real grass or synthetic tees. In the short-game area, Titleist Pro V1 golf balls simplify the act of chipping onto the green or into target nets, even as players line up shots from nearby bunkers, slopes, and grasses akin to the rough and fairway. And when players are left with nothing else to do but admire themselves in the reflection of the nearest water hazard, Twin Lakes’ resident instructors—Don Parsons, Buff Platt, and PGA head professional Jim Ley—are there to take the reins and help clients shave off a few more strokes.
The stately grounds at River Ridge Golf Club are split between two distinct 18-hole courses: The Vineyard Course and The Victoria Lakes Course. Though there is a diverse arrangement of hole layouts littered throughout these sibling courses, a few design features are constants. Well-kept fairways and smooth greens of poa annua grass are always underfoot, one of the 14 water hazards is never far, and a light breeze constantly blows over the club from the Pacific, located just a few miles away.
In fact, the ocean is visible from a handful of high elevation points on the Vineyard Course. Holes three through six are "on top of the world" because they showcase panoramic ocean views and are at the highest elevation in Oxnard. Golfers also encounter water in closer proximity, as five lakes span the back nine on the Vineyard course, including the signature island green on the par-3 18th hole that usually plays into the wind or the occasional golf-ball hail storm. The Victoria Lakes course harbors eight acres of water and a stretch of difficult layouts on hole 12, 13, and 14. Hole 13 is arguably the most challenging hole at River Ridge Golf Club: a double dogleg that plays into the wind, measures 425 yards from the blue tees, and is flanked by lakes on both sides.
With all that the club asks of golfers' skills and ability to strategize, the practice area holds important status among golfers aiming to conquer it. Overhead lights on the grass driving range let players practice their strokes well after dusk, while two putting greens serve as practice venues for golfers intent on finding a way to make a ball roll without touching it.
Vineyard Course at a Glance:
Victoria Lakes Course at a Glance:
Cradled amid the foothills of Canejo Mountain, Camarillo Spring Golf Course melds long par 3s and numerous water hazards to present an exacting test of golfers' accuracy. As the mountain peak looms above, players do their best to tune out the bewitching vista and launch balls along the nearly 7,000-yard layout before opponents' caddies can snatch them from the tee. Save for a few arid holes between holes 6 and 11, water hazards pepper the course, presenting no fewer than 12 opportunities to lose a ball to the depths.
Camarillo Springs Golf Course celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012, but the history of the land on which it sits stretches back much further. The 18 holes sprawl over a portion of the original 10,000-acre Camarillo Ranch—a Spanish land grant created in 1837.
Course at a Glance:
Nestled amid avocado and citrus groves that line the rolling fields of Ventura County, Sterling Hills Golf Club's 18-hole course pairs scenic terrain with an inventive design from Robert Muir Graves and Damian Pascuzzo. The 6,813-yard gem plays to a par 71 from the tips and features a multitude of green-side and fairway bunkers, including particularly well fortified putting surfaces on holes 5, 7, and 18, and six water hazards that threaten balls throughout the round. Before taking to the course, golfers can warm up at a driving range or by bench-pressing their golf bag at the practice green.
Course at a Glance:
Since it opened in 1986, La Purisima Golf Course has collected nearly as many accolades as it has wayward golf balls. Known as "La Piranha" to regulars, the course has appeared in numerous publications, often for its challenging layout. Golf Digest ranked it 33rd on its list of the toughest courses in the country, and Golf Magazine placed it among the top 100 public courses in the country for nine years in a row.
It may seem like architects Kenneth Hume Hunter, Jr. and Robert Muir Graves teamed up to punish the Santa Barbara golfing community, but that's not the case at all. Instead, they shared a vision for the 309-acre plot as a pure version of golf unencumbered by real estate developments and novelties such as manmade waterfalls or hydraulic-equipped carts. The result is a long, enjoyable, and, yes, difficult test of the game that rewards bold shot selection and precise play across a naturally undulating landscape in the heart of wine country.
Course at a Glance: